A Quick Intro: I’ve been wanting to start posting some ‘After Gaming’ articles on the blog for a while now, so this is the beginning of that series of posts. These posts/articles/whatever will mostly be related to my thoughts on the games we’re playing and the experiences we have when not at the table. I might talk about my prep process, GM advice, player advice, observations, experiences, or anything that I’m feeling like talking about. I’m not a writer so my grammar, syntax, sentence structure, and punctuation may not be perfect. Also, please forgive me if these posts get a little ramble-y, it’s just the way I process my thoughts. Please enjoy the article!
Something awesome happened at the end of our recording session of Burning Wheel this week.
Flashback: I’ve been continually asking my players to give me feedback about our games. The first time I asked them for feedback it was like pulling teeth. Nobody had ever asked them to think critically about gaming before so they gave me generalities like “it was fun” or “yeah, good game” which just wasn’t helpful. But I wasn’t going to give up. I decided to keep at it so I could get the feedback I desperately wanted out of them. I would ask them immediately after the session or during the week, through IM, texts, or in person, and prompted them with specific questions about how they like gameplay elements or NPCs that I portray, whatever; just stuff.
Most importantly I started talking to them about game theory. How games are designed with an agenda to push, how certain mechanics cause the narrative to play out differently, what point economies do to effect the flow of power in game and what that means to the narrative, etc. You know. Pretentious designer shit. 😉
The Present: This week, I asked them “So what do you guys think of Burning Wheel so far?”
I immediately regretted this phrasing as it felt a little too vague a question to get good feedback from the players as they had historically not been very forthcoming with opinions, thoughts, or insights about their play experience.
They surprised the shit out of me by not only giving me real feedback about how the game was playing for them but took control of the post-game discussion!
They told me how felt the struggle was real with regard to writing good Beliefs and Instincts that would be fruitful to their characters during play. They told me that they are split on how much they (dis)like the advancement system in the game. They told me that they were having fun, but then backed that up with reasons! This was the discussion I’d been trying to cultivate for about a year. It was immensely satisfying.
Most (personally) importantly they told me that they recognized how fucking complicated the game is and that they appreciated the job I was doing as a GM. Matt, who has run Mouse Guard for us and is a fun GM to play for, flat out told the group that he wouldn’t have run this game due to the level of complexity. He also said that he now understands why there are some gamers who have expressed the opinion ‘Mouse Guard is absolutely not Burning Wheel lite.’ His understanding in this regard feels especially validating since he’s basically our second GM for the podcast*, and has the most experience (outside of myself) in running games. I appreciate that all of my players understand how hard running Burning Wheel for the first time is and I doubly appreciate that they told me they think I’m doing a good job managing our game at the table.
Final Thoughts: This series has taught me a lot (generally) about Burning Wheel. Most importantly, it has armed me (because it is absolutely a fight with this game) with a better understanding on how to set up a game, manage the rules, and run the stories that The Burning Wheel is good at telling! This is despite the fact that I still do not feeling like I’ve even scratched the surface of the nuance required to be good at it using this rules set to tell great stories; just that I’m closer now than I was when we started.
Not only has it taught me a lot about gaming, it’s also the game where my players were finally comfortable enough as a group and with the ideas behind game design and playing games to take control of the post-game conversation! If nothing else, Burning Wheel will have my thanks because it’s provided the group with the final push to really express their feelings and opinions about the system that we’re using to tell our stories at the table.
The players (despite some initial reservations) have all agreed that they would all absolutely play The Burning Wheel again. Not only would they play again, but with what we all have learned with this first series, we could play a much tighter and more satisfying game of Burning Wheel next time.
No lie: I’m pretty excited that there’s gonna be a next time!
Thank’s for reading!
* Kaetlyn ran a game of Dungeon World for us recently and said she’d be willing to run other sessions and games in the future! Watch out for some of those to hit the podcast sometime in the future.